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J Psychiatry Neurosci. 1994 Nov;19(5):359-67.

Huntington's disease: pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment.

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Department of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Alberta, Alberta Hospital, Edmonton.


This review of the clinical features of Huntington's disease incorporates recent developments in pathophysiology, preclinical diagnosis and treatment. Although the mechanism initiating and guiding the cell destruction in this illness is currently unknown, the excitatory neurotoxin and the energy metabolism models may provide a valuable direction for future research. Similarly, although the precise relation between the neuroanatomical damage in Huntington's disease and the functional disability is not clear, applications of recently developed neural connection models have implicated a number of important brain-behavior associations. Preclinical diagnostic procedures have evolved through successive iterations that have each contributed to increased reliability. New functional brain imaging techniques are sure to add to this promising domain in the future. Preclinical diagnosis has been stimulated by the recent isolation of the Huntington's gene which has also rekindled awareness of the importance of informed genetic counselling and the inherent ethical dilemmas in genetic testing. Treatment approaches to Huntington's disease have been confined to palliative care with secondary symptom management and psychotherapeutic support. Experimental therapeutic strategies for the illness itself have had a rather disappointing record to date. Further developments in NMDA antagonism and neural cell grafting may provide some hope for the future.

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